THE WISHING TREE
Hi, my name is Jacopo, I am 25 years old and I am Italian. I have been living in Indonesia since the beginning of April, and at present I am working within the EVS project in three different orphanages of Salatiga, in the province of Central Java, an area rich of culture and tradition. Salatiga has fresh cool air, fertile paddy fields and beautiful panorama of Mount Merbabu. Besides, the city (populated by approximately 150.000 people) is also known about being a City of Education. Let me tell you briefly about my life and my work here.
I am supposed to teach English to the kids and to the young guys of the orphanages, but actually here I feel and I am an educator more than a mere teacher, as I believe that my guys need a comprehensive education more than a certificate of their linguistic skills. And it’s according to this belief that I am also happy to live in one of those orphanage, and not in a separate boarding house. At the beginning it bothered me to be honest, because here, as you could guess, the daily life is not that easy, especially for many practical reasons. Sometimes there is no food, sometimes there is no water, some often the gas is over, and so on and so on. But, just after a couple of months, or even less, I would say that I have completely changed my mind. Live here gave me a precious opportunity to make day by day a closer relationship of trust and friendship with the kids and to understand deeply the Indonesian culture. As a matter of fact, every single day I have been so impressed by the intensity and the complex of their religious practices, so essential in their life; I have learnt from them how to prepare their traditional javanese foods, that now taste so delicious to me (but still extremely spicy!); I have learnt a bit of their own language, Javanese, and a bit more of their official language, bahasa Indonesia.
If, as someone said, the language reveals a lot of the culture of a population, it’s interesting to notice that often, instead of “tidak” (“No”), they use the word “belum” (literally “Not yet”); so if you ask them if they have ever been to some place or simply if they have ever seen a specific movie they will probably reply with “Belum”. As the little prince used to say “One never knows”.
After this short presentation of my context of life, I would share with you an episode that has happened last month in my orphanage in Kauman.
One weekday, as scheduled, I was doing activities with my kids, so I asked them to draw their personal “wishing tree”. For this activity I was inspired by my Spanish project partner MariaTe who recommended me to do that. It’s simply about draw a tree with its fruits, and write inside them your wishes (in English.., of course). Mostly of the kids were understandably focused on themselves, and they expressed desires concerning primarily money and popularity. “I wish to become a famous football player as Messi”, “I wish to become millionaire” and “I wish to travel around the world” were the most common ones. Nothing wrong I would say. Normal desires, the same that I would probably have expressed at their age (13-14 years old).
But then, reading their papers, I was so particularly impressed by one of the kids who wrote that in his life he wants to make other people happy. A noble desire, made even more unique by the fact that he didn’t write “my friends”, “my companions of the orphanage” or anyone else in anyway related with him or with his condition. No. He wrote “other people” who sounds much more gracious and universalistic, doesn’t it? That’s not a kind of miracle?
No luckiness, no familial affection nor wealth in his short life. He has never received a gift or a slice of cake for his birthday. Nevertheless, in spite of all, he seems to have understood the meaning of life better than anyone else.
After that he wrote “I wish to become a good boy”. Neither rich nor famous as a football player. Simply “good”. A good boy, steadily, in the daily life.
I am still wondering how is it possible that a body so tiny and skinny may contain such a big and wonderful heart.